I seriously have this question: is it possible that I have already had COVID-19?￼￼ I would love a speculative reply from a medical professional.
I spent four weeks in Los Angeles this past January. When I arrived via a flight from JFK to LAX, I began feeling ill soon after arrival. You may recall that there were wildfires northwest of Los Angeles at the time, and I could smell the acrid burning.￼￼ I suffer from mild asthma; most Angelenos barely seemed to notice it but it bothered me a lot.￼
What followed were the symptoms that I associated at the time with something that happens to me fairly typically: allergic reaction causes runny nose which triggers bronchitis which, if it gets bad, can become pneumonia.￼￼ I have had pneumonia at least four times. Now, however, I wonder if I actually had coronavirus in January. Because what happened then was nothing like my normal pattern.￼
My symptoms were what we all know now as boilerplate for COVID-19. I had an incessant dry cough. (To the people I met with, sorry, I just didn’t know.)￼￼￼ I had a constant fever. My temperature ranged from about 101° during the day to closer to 103° at night.￼￼ My chest was tight: it felt like a car was parked on it. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever. I was exhausted. Even walking half a block, I had to take a break. I would get back to my hotel after a meeting and be asleep by 6 PM.￼ I would sleep 14 hours and wake up still wiped out. “What the hell,” I would ask myself, “is going on?”￼￼
This went on for nearly 4 weeks.￼￼
I visited two walk-in clinics￼ in West Hollywood. The first one was useless.￼ The attending nurse told me it was probably a viral as opposed to a bacterial infection and I just needed to treat it with over-the-counter stuff.￼ I became alarmed when, a few days later, I felt like I was getting worse, not better. So I went to see another one.
These guys were better. They listened to me when I explained that my pulmonary problems usually have a bacterial component even when they are viral so that I needed antibiotics.￼￼ They took an x-ray which revealed that I was in the early stages of pneumonia.￼ I tested negative for flu.
However, they didn’t really give me a very strong antibiotic. I felt slightly better after two or three days but then I started to slip again. So I called my physician back in New York.￼￼ So she called in a prescription for a stronger antibiotic. By then we were in week three. Normally when you have a fever, it gets worse at night but it starts to alleviate after the second night, maybe even after the first one. Whatever I had in January just kept going on like the energizer bunny. Night after night, that fever would hit me like a brick. And I could barely walk.￼￼
Looking back, it’s obvious that whatever happened to me in January, whether or not it was coronavirus, was definitely very different than anything else I have ever experienced. And I have had swine flu as well as regular influenza. This was nothing like that.￼
The timing certainly would work for coronavirus.
The Wuhan outbreak began in early December 2019. ￼￼￼Los Angeles California is of course one of the major gateways to China so it’s likely that someone who carried the virus traveled from China to the United States within days. They were probably asymptomatic at the time.￼
New York to LA flights go back-and-forth between LA and New York and New York and LA so the plane was probably infected by time I boarded in New York. (I don’t care what the airlines say about how flying is safe. I often get sick due to the recirculated air on airplanes. I think planes are cesspools of contagion.￼)
￼At least three people with whom I came into contact suffered similar symptoms for at least a month￼. Again, sorry!
After I recovered from the initial symptoms, it took at least another month before I started to feel normal, as opposed to constantly exhausted and fatigued.￼￼
For the record, most experts believe that you will no longer transmit it after 14 days. The longest estimate I have found is 37 days. It has been longer than 37 days for me.￼
I am assuming that I am still vulnerable to coronavirus and I am taking all the necessary precautions to isolate myself and keep myself clean. And of course I don’t want to give it to anyone else. ￼Still, it’s an interesting question: is it possible that I am one of many people in the United States who have already had coronavirus without knowing it?
If so, that gives us some reason for optimism in terms of recovery and fatality rates.￼ If there are a lot of people like me who were never tested for this disease and got over it on their own, it means that the odds of recovering from coronavirus are significantly higher than those being calculated by public health officials.￼